Arts&Audience participation&Pop culture01 Sep 2006 08:00 am

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Arts&British politics&Global politics&Pop culture20 Mar 2006 09:55 pm

Hugo in mask I saw the film V for Vendetta today. I read the graphic novel yesterday.

Shoot me down, purists, but I thought the film was better.


If you read it in the 80s, you’ll no doubt be bleating in protest already, but I stand by my view. The original is a great and thought-provoking read, to be sure, but it is very much of its time. You don’t write a screenplay to be faithful to someone else’s vision. You write a screenplay to make a film as good as it can be. And the changes to the story made in the Wachowskis’ script were all sensible ones.

The concept of the personified central computer system ‘Fate’ might have been Orwellian and futuristic in the 80s but would have seemed dated twenty years on. The addition of references like a media-led avian flu panic only added to the sense of “Hold on a second, isn’t that a bit like… now?” The decision to swap the Old Bailey and the Houses of Parliament bombing order around was excellent. Much better sense of crescendo, visually. The decision to send V off in the tube decked in roses was brilliant. Cinematic gold, in fact.

I could’ve probably done without the thwarted Evey/V love theme, but it certainly didn’t detract from the story. The fact that Evey didn’t become V in the end was a slight shame, but the theme of continuation and tradition was still there in the dead characters’ reappearance in the masked crowd at the end. If I want, I can still harbour the idea that it was Valerie all along, despite the evidence of Hugo Weaving’s manly form.

By the end, I was thinking “This has got to be the most subversive blockbuster ever released”. And “Do ‘they’ realise what is in this film?” And “Couldn’t this be a highly polished recruiting tool for radical anarchy*?”

[*I’m not suggesting anarchy itself is a violent system, it isn’t. Send me none of your polite hate mail, dear anarchists.]

I mean, think about it. In Blair’s mean-spirited language, it certainly glamourises terrorism. It openly declares that violence is a moral and appropriate response to oppression. It shows that chaos and precarity are inevitable if state power is to be opposed, and should be embraced. It illustrates how the corporate media is the tool of the corporate-dominated state and how the mass media’s non-advertising content exists to distract and instruct according to the interests of its paymasters. (Which may account for the fact that the film has received a stack of “Oh it’s all boring and complicated, don’t bother with it” type reviews from mainstream media. Interesting.)

V for Vendetta So all in all, I’m rather blown away by it. I’d been led to believe that it would be a pale imitation of the anarchic original, when in fact the power of its 21st century impact surpassed it. I should’ve known those Wachowskis wouldn’t let me down.

Now: (i) how long do you think it’ll be before V masks/wigs are available in costume shops, and (ii) do you think the anti-demonstration legislation covering 1 km around Parliament (The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005) extends to people walking through Westminster in fancy dress?

Arts&Audience participation&Pop culture07 Mar 2006 06:24 pm

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Arts&British politics&Writing23 Apr 2005 12:36 pm

Two parties vie to woo the country’s hearts
With trickery, vile sorcery and spin,
And much recourse to Campbell’s fiendish arts:
No principles have they, but lust to win.
Each hollow pledge dropp’d lightly to the earth,
Twice shatter’d unto dust by careless hooves;
To focus groups such baubles owe their birth.
Mere rhetoric each manifesto proves.
Lo, wherefore art this contest such disgrace?
A vote for evil maketh man despair,
Yet seest thou a light in this dark place?
In May, i’faith, wilt thou a cross place there?
Democracy such conflict doth devour,
For those who claim to serve love none but Power.

Scarlet are the hands of Britain’s lord,
And guilty, with his rich Atlantic friend,
Of multiplying corpses slain abroad,
And bringing civil peace to savage end.
A vote for red must be a vote for death.
But prithee, thinkest thou I point to blue?
Let not thy thoughts drift thence. The blue hateth
Fair truth, bless’d justice, and good people too.
Beware their leader’s ghoulish azure glow:
This beast in human form doth stalk the night,
And drinketh he the blood of foreign foe –
Begone, thou foul distemper’d parasite!
O ye, with naught to gain and much to lose,
Must not let Michael step in Tony’s shoes.

Thus all right-thinking men must look to gold,
Or green, or seek another worthy hue.
Reform all social ills, go forth, be bold;
By this, thy faith in Parliament renew.
Repair the Eastern wreckage, make amends
For slaughter, broken cities, senseless pain;
Unwind Guantanamo’s wire fence, make friends
All o’er the globe, let human conscience reign.
Dethrone the god of money, let him be
A wand’ring nomad, not thy holy king,
If thou wouldst thus reject his tyranny,
Thy life such wond’rous gentle joy would bring!
Elect thy choice, but hear me from above:
A man is only rich if he hath love.

Arts&Audience participation&Writing16 Apr 2005 12:00 pm

Ladies and gents, your personalised book recommendations (see Readers’ lives) are ready.

Remember, you’re very welcome to recommend me a book right back. In fact, I’d love it if you did. Thanks to all those who have already recommended titles, whether to me or to everyone generally. They’re all great choices.

While selecting a book for each blogger, I’ve tried to avoid both the eyewateringly obvious and the sort of books you’ve talked about in your blogs. If you’ve written about your love of sci-fi, say, I’ve assumed you already have all the sci-fi you need and have tried to think of a more tangential option.

Mostly I’ve chosen novels, because a long list of factual books would have all the allure of a school reading list. Yawn-o-rama. However, there are a couple of exceptions.

If you’ve already read the title I suggest for you, I’ll award myself a shiny silver star for ninja-level perception. (Privately, I will give myself a slap for inability to think laterally.)

Cover shots are included, but there are probably 200 different editions all across the globe. So don’t judge your book by its…

I’ll just get on with it, shall I?

1. Radiohumper
Human Croquet – Kate Atkinson

You asked for something British with foxes in it. This book’s poetic, magical and beautifully written, as are all Kate Atkinson’s books. I think any one of them would be a good choice for you, but this one in particular. (OK, there aren’t any foxes in it. But it is British. Stick with me here.)

2. Ibrahim
Metamorphoses – Ovid

Not just because it’s from the olden days. It’s epic, adventurous, noble and heroic, all of which may be your cup of tea.

3. Swiss Toni
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë

Anne is the best Brontë. Fact! Unfortunately, she’s always been overshadowed by melodramatic weakling Emily and gobby sulker Charlotte. This book is ace on toast. I’m not sure you have any interest in Victorian novels, Swiss, so it’s a long shot, but I still think you’d romp through this one.

4. Lord Bargain
White Noise – Don DeLillo

This book’s funny, wry and entertaining. If you look it up on Amazon, ignore all the poppycock written in the customer review section. It’s not “tough going” or “difficult” and you don’t need an understanding of postmodern literary concepts to read it. What are these people on about?

Anyway, I’ve broken with convention completely here, because I’ve decided to offer you a second option in case you’re put off the first one by the detractors’ twitterings. It is:

The Stars’ Tennis Balls – Stephen Fry

This book gave me a bad dream the night I finished it. But it’s great.

5. Francesca
Immortality – Milan Kundera

I love this book. I bet you $900,000 that you will too. The fact that I don’t have $900,000 to cover the bet just goes to show how sure I am.

6. Hedgewitch
The Dice Man – Luke Rhinehart

A cult classic. But Hedgewitch, beware of trying to emulate the Dice Man’s actions while you’re reading it. No good can come of this.

7. Andy
Life of Pi – Yann Martel

This book is weird and brilliant. You think you know where it’s going, then it charges off in the opposite direction. Ideal for most people, but especially Andy. I think you’d like its understated humour and its unexpected twists. Frankly, who wouldn’t?

8. Ka
If I Told You Once – Judy Budnitz

Warning: the dark fairytale landscape of this book may haunt you for days after finishing it. An exquisite gem, perfect for Ka.

9. Chunky Munky
London Fields – Martin Amis

It is big and it is clever. It’s also compulsory reading for all Londoners. Hey, I don’t make the rules.

10. Mark
Manners – Robert Newman

There’s a sense of creeping urban decay in this book which I think would appeal to you, Mark. Not just that, but the incisive rendering of the main character and his psychological journey throughout the story also strike me as your sort of thing. An excellent book from an underrated writer.

11. Hun (aka odd child)
The Mistress of Spices – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

A wild spirit unleashed in Oakland, just like the Hun herself. This is another beautifully written book with a magical twinkle in its eye.

12. OLS
Wise Children – Angela Carter

Sparkling, stylish, witty novel with hidden depths WLTM Aussie lawyer for cosy nights on the couch. No time wasters.

13. Jim
Vapor – Amanda Filipacchi

This book came to mind immediately for you, Jim, and I’m not quite sure why. It’s partly hilarious and partly sweet. The oblique humour in it may appeal to you. It may not. If it does, her other book Nude Men will almost certainly suit you too (not as titillating as it sounds, but a strange, funny read).

14. Jenni (who also appears here)
The Map of Love – Ahdaf Soueif

International politics, Egyptian history and a love story, all wrapped up into one. You can almost feel the scorching Sahara underfoot when you’re reading it. It’s a delight.

15. True Blue Liberal
The Age of Consent – George Monbiot

TBL, you are one of only two recipients of a non-fiction recommendation. This book is Monbiot’s “manifesto for a new world order”. I thought its visionary political ideas and optimism might appeal. One to fill your head with possibilities.

16. Diogenes
After The Empire – Emanuel Todd

Gerry didn’t respond to my entreaty to join us, but he’s getting a recommendation anyway because I think he’ll love this book. The author predicted the self-destruction of the Soviet Union back in 1975, when the rest of the world saw no signs of its power crumbling. Here, he turns his attentions to America and predicts the way in which the American empire will draw to a close, arguing that this process is already underway. Compelling and surprising.

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

The best novel ever written. I ain’t even joking witcha. Buy. Read. Love.

OK people, that’s me done. Hope you like your choices. Let me know what you think of the selections and, if you decide to read your book, what you thought of it.

Happy reading!

Arts&Audience participation&Writing14 Apr 2005 01:08 pm

I’ve buried the concept for this post right down in the comments section of the post below, which was silly. If you don’t fancy exhuming it, here it is again. It’s a proposed book recommendation post. You’re welcome to start one on your own blogs too.

The meme is of course the sign of a dead blog, so I don’t know what my attempt to start one says about mine. Nevertheless, let’s have a crack at it.

Here’s how it works: if you want me to recommend you a book, based solely on my limited knowledge of you as a blogger, then please comment below. Once I have a few names – or once I realise it’s an unworkably odd idea and abandon it, whichever is sooner – I’ll put up a new post containing one recommendation for each volunteer.

If you want to participate in this ‘project’ – which seems a laughably lofty word for a coffee-break diversion I just invented on the spur of the moment – then feel free to do the same. Call for volunteers and then recommend them something. If you tell me you’re doing it, I’ll drop in for my 1-book prescription from Doctor You too.

We can then have the pleasure of recommending each other one title to sit in our Amazon wishlists for 6 months before being deleted. What could be more fun?

The only rule is that the recommender must genuinely think the person will enjoy the book. No joke recommendations, e.g. “A Compendium of Mental Illness” for people who are “just kerrr-azy, like totally WACKO”.

Make sense? OK. Then let’s begin.

Want a personal book recommendation in my forthcoming post? Let me know below. Want to recommend other people books? Post a similar request on your blog. Bingo!

UPDATE: List now closed, recommendations on their way…

Arts&Writing13 Apr 2005 11:53 am

After yesterday’s Norman Mailer-bashing, you may have wondered who the best novelists writing in English are. Here is the answer.

Greatest living: Toni Morrison
Greatest dead: Vladimir Nabokov

Thus spake Fox.

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